Sorrow, stay (Mr. Dowland's Blues) (2007)
for voice and guitar

duration: 7'

commissioned by soprano Juliet Fraser as a companion piece for a Dowland song programme

First performance: Juliet Fraser and Alan Thomas, Soundwaves Festival, Brighton 27th June, 2008.

Download Score: [Sorrow Stay score]

Programme Note

In creating a programme of Dowland songs, the performer is struck immediately by the difficulty of achieving a sense of contrasting mood or theme. So unrelenting is Dowland's melancholy that one searches in vain for the jaunty upbeat numbers to provide a balance with a seemingly endless swathe of songs about tears, lovelorn complaints, sin and death. One has to conclude that while Dowland may have actually preferred "melancholy" to "happy" in his personal life (his motto was "semper Dowland, semper dolens"--"always Dowland, always doleful"--and his biography certainly bears out the notion that Dowland was a rather thorny and bitter character), he absolutely required it in his artistic life.

The darker emotions have always provided more fertile ground for artists; having more texture and shading, they provide a base metal to be transformed into artistic gold. Where would the Bluesman be without his melancholy fate to bemoan in song?

Guitarists are generally tinkerers by nature; they like to let their fingers wander to discover new chords and licks. I can only assume that Renaissance lutenists were the same...